I just returned from a visit to Tanzania with the non-profit I helped found eight years ago. My purpose on this trip was to be on the ground while we dug a well in a Maasai area that has never before had safe water to drink. Anticipating that well drilling does not always go exactly as expected, I wanted to be there to help make decisions on the fly. It turned out to be a good idea—we hit salt water in the first borehole and had to quickly negotiate an entirely new plan. But the truth is, other than that brief flash of activity, I didn’t do much on my visit except hug babies, laugh and dance with mamas, and show three Americans what our work is all about.Over the first six days, I had the privilege of introducing our group to the most talented people I’ve ever met.
Our staff and volunteers in Tanzania—made up entirely of local Tanzanians—are changing lives every day. They are making a difference in their own country with their own people, through their own culture, and they are amazing. Our staff and volunteers in Tanzania are men and women who went through the local school system in one of the poorest countries in the world, attended local colleges, and came looking for jobs that would help them give back to their communities. They serve the people around them with passion and compassion, and they work harder than anyone I’ve ever known. These men and women tackle economic development, adult education in modern farming practices, gender-based violence, the health problems inherent to living in sub-Saharan Africa, and the local cultural issues that hold people back. These men and women of Empower Tanzania do this as they grow their own gardens to feed their own families, cook from scratch every day, and stay present for those they love. (And let’s not forget the challenge of working with white people—wazungu—from America!)
A lot of people will ask those of us who traveled to Tanzania to describe our experience. They will want to know if it changed our lives, and if we changed the lives of people we saw. They will believe that somehow what we did in Tanzania during our 10-day trip made a difference. My response is this: “Yes, it made a huge difference, but not for the reasons you think.” It made a difference because we are equipped now to tell the story of how local Tanzanians are changing lives in Tanzania and empowering their own people to grow beyond the poverty they were born into. And what is our role in this? Our role is to do what we do best, which is to live in the US, go to work and earn money, and use a portion of it to help support the work these amazing Tanzanians are doing. Our job is to tell YOU the story and help you see what a wonderful thing your gift to Empower Tanzania is and what a difference it will make in empowering these people to do their work. I was moved to tears when one of our first-time travelers, Deb, handed me her $500 of “emergency money” while sitting in the Amsterdam airport on the way home. She simply said, “I don’t need this now. Use it on the well.” Deb gets it. The trip was a success.